7/12/11. Interview with Dan Hajdo, Board Member for Casino-Free Philadelphia. Dan talked about the history of Casino-Free Philadelphia, which began in 2006 in response to state authorization of slot machine gambling (2004) and the announcement of 2 casino sites planned for the Philadelphia area (2006). All decisions about the casinos had been made behind closed doors, with no public participation or input. This new group began “Operation Transparency” and challenged the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to release documents, which they have done slowly and under pressure. The organization has been able at least to delay the process of casino development. Of the 2 planned casinos, only one has been built, and it is currently running at partial capacity.
In the tradition of the civil rights struggle, Casino-Free Philadelphia members have often used tactics of “direct action.” In one instance (“Beat the House”), they brought 100 people to a newly opened casino and had 80 of their members sit at slot machines for an hour, occupying the machines without playing them. In another instance, when a casino opened in Philadelphia, they organized a Memorial Service for the city, bringing together clergy from various faiths, all with the same message: casinos cause the destruction of people’s lives.
Casino-Free Philadelphia is focusing now on two main efforts: 1) outreach to various communities (Hispanic, Asian, Russian, etc.) that have been targeted by the casinos and hard hit by them; and 2) seeking to Reclaim the Riverfront, the current site of the Sugarhouse Casino.
For more information about Casino-Free Philadelphia and its activities, see: www.casinofreephilly.org